Readers, dress better! “Trust me, you’re gonna like the way you look.”
Seriously, you’ll be amazed at the boost this gives to your confidence. And the impact it has on the way you’re treated by students and colleagues.
Hair: It is not illegal for an assistant professor to have a trendy haircut. Ditch the ponytail. Reject the pageboy (of any length). Show that you ARE All That. Spend the money on yourself to look good. Find the hottest hair salon in your town, and become a regular. You will be astounded at what a good haircut does for your confidence. If you do nothing else from this post, do this. Don’t know how to find the hottest hair salon? Go to the hottest coffee shop, find the barista with the coolest haircut (male or female, it matters not), and ask them where they got it.
Skin and Makeup: I like makeup. Not everyone does. It’s optional, of course. If you go for it, and I think you should, let’s lean away from Wet N’ Wild and more toward L’Oreal and Revlon. No need to go into the overpriced department store brands at this stage in your career. I like Revlon Colorstay because I put it on in the morning and don’t have to think about it again. I recently discovered that lip stain makes a killer all-day blush.
Even if you don’t wear makeup, take care of your skin. It’s your largest organ! It deserves care! Use a toner and moisturizer. They feel good and make a difference.Do the occasional clay mask. Cheap ones are fine. I like organics, myself.
Jewelry: Wear conservative jewelry to job talks. You may wear conspicuous jewelry at large conferences. In your daily life in the department, aim for the middle. Beware of jangling bracelets.
Tops: Take out your tops and look at them them. Are they stained? Get them cleaned or throw them out. Are they ripped? Fix them or throw them out. We notice. Your students notice. Please.
Iron your shirts. I know there’s no time. But iron your shirts.
***Be Aware: Jackets are hard to fit!. The best and most expensive jacket will not do its magic if it doesn’t fit YOUR body. And a badly fitting jacket will look the opposite of good. Jacket shopping can be grueling, like swimsuits. Put in the time. It’s worth it. The time you spend in the stores you’ll more than save in the mornings when you’re rushing out the door for the 8 AM class.
Bottoms: Pants or skirt? The perennial question. I don’t think it matters. You must be comfortable. Just leave behind the trailing earth mother skirts you wore in graduate school. You are a young professional. You have to look like one. Old-timers bewail the homogenization of the assistant professoriate, in their sea of dull grey suits. Nevertheless, own a grey suit. Just make it really, really stylish grey suit. And wear it with killer shoes.
Shoes: For the job interview, wear a heel between 1 and 3 inches. I don’t recommend flats because, frankly, you need the height. Above 3 inches, and you’re tottering. I wear this kind of heel every day, but that’s me. I like heels. Avoid stilettos and kitten heels–they stick in sidewalk cracks and trip you. The round or square toe and a stacked heel keeps you safe from falling over as you approach the podium. Beyond these rules, express yourself. Have the hippest shoes that you can pull off. They give you mystique. They say, “I’m brilliant AND I’m cool suckaz.” You want your students to be a little bit intimidated, and your colleagues to feel a little bit inadequate.
Why do all this? Because image matters. And because you’ll feel better. And when you feel better, you perform better. Don’t believe me? Try it out for a month, and find out for yourself.